Friday’s are usually a bright spot of the week. It is payday, Andrew and I usually go have dinner and a couple drinks at the bar near our house and we just relax. Since working at the Clifton Institute though, we have had to place out dinner dates on hold. My first three Fridays nights at work I’ve had to work late to supervise various events. Tonight, was dinner and game night. The recreational room was almost set up with the tablecloths already placed and each table having small bowls of chips and salsa. You may think chips and salsa was kind of juvenile, but the budget I was given was not very large for much else.
When the clock strikes five o’clock most of the day staff can’t wait to get out, they all scuffle to the elevator or stairs at the same time. I walk out into the hallway and wave bye to Evelyn who bolts out her seat with her jacket in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. Even though there are overnight nurses and janitors here, because the building is so big, when the day staff leaves it almost feels deserted in the night. There is not much noise, the teenagers either gather in the other room with the large T.V or stay in their room quietly. It almost felt like I was alone. Even Dr. Clifton would be in his Mercedes Benz by two o’clock.
I call Andrew to let him know what time I would most likely be home, his voicemail answers.
“Hey baby I just want to let you know that I should be home by about eight, don’t worry about picking me up I’ll cab it. Love you, just text me when you can”
I take a quick look around the room to see if anything else was needed. The snacks were in place, the board games were on the shelf.
“Shit a speaker”
One of the main things I needed fill the room with music. It was thirty minutes to six o’clock. I scuffle to the hallway to see if I could spot a security guard or another staff member. From afar I could see one of the janitors taking out the garbage from one of the offices. It was Joseph, the younger janitor I met my first week in this job. I could recognize him from his lanky stature.
“Hi” I shout, hoping to get his attention but I could tell he has headphones on. I rush over to him as he is throwing in another garbage bag in the bin and lightly tap on the shoulder.
Without warning, Joseph swung his long right arm up and around in defense.
Thankfully I ducked.
“Whoa what the hell” The words spring from my mouth.
Joseph takes off his headphones his hand softly comes down.
“My bad I’m sorry I just got caught off guard, did I hit you” He tries to examine my face but I shook my head.
“It’s okay, I’m fine”
Joseph was red from embarrassment. His body seemed to tense up as I stood there.
“Are you okay, you look a little spooked” I had to ask.
“No I’m okay sometimes when I work the night shifts, some people tend to try and play pranks on me. This place is very big and very quiet at night. So it’s easy for people to just jump at you.”
“Who does that, is the patients?”
“No, forget I said that, what could I help you with” Joseph picked up his mopping and started cleaning.
“Well I don’t mean to bother you while you were busy, I just need to know where I could get a speaker, to connect to my laptop I have a playlist of approved songs by Dr. Clifton, it’s for the game night we are having”
Joseph tilted his head for a moment.
“The only place I could think of is all the way down in the basement. There is a room down the hall to the left of the morgue”
My heart skipped a beat.
“The morgue” I was sure Joseph heard the fear behind my voice.
“Sorry, it used to be a morgue. This whole place was an hospital back in the 1940’s, there’s a lot of history here” Joseph states.
The basement isn’t exactly my favorite place in this building, now I find out that there is a morgue. There was no way I would be going down there alone.
“Are you sure that there is one in the basement, no other place” I was hoping that there was but Joseph’s quickly shook his head no to my question.
“Well do you mind accompanying me quickly, I am sorry but I can’t go down there by myself” I grinned my widest grin, hoping he’d comply.
Joseph let out a sigh. “Okay fine I show you, since you probably won’t be able to find it”
I followed Joseph down the hall of towards the elevator. We stepped inside and he pressed the basement floor. I tried not to stare at him but he practically towered over me. His hair was nicely tucked into a ponytail.
It looks like he uses better conditioner then I do. I thought to myself.
There was a sadness to him. I couldn’t tell if it was his expressions or just his natural features, but there was a gloomy aura that surrounded him. My instinct was telling me to ask him if there was something bothering him. Before I could say anything, the elevator doors open to complete darkness. Flashbacks of me collapsing the first time I stepped into this elevator started to flood my mind. The smell of sulfur was still present but faintly. My feet hesitate to move.
“We Just keep going down until you see double door then make a left” Joseph points straight to a set of double doors. They were dimly lit by a florescent light above them. He steps out of the elevator, I closely follow.
“Don’t like it much down here huh” Joseph slowly leads me down the hall.
“The smell never really goes away and the electricity is shot, the big boss only rents our floor in the building so he wouldn’t pay any contractors to fix anything down here”
I could see us getting close to the morgue doors, the light was getting brighter.
“I actually fainted the first time I came down here, the elevator stopped here instead of the first floor. As soon as I got out the elevator there was like a cloud of smoke that puffed in my face, I could have sworn I saw something too. It was so bad and felt so hot, like I was actually in a fire. I could not even breathe. Then I collapsed” Just talking about this made me tremble.
“Whoa so you were the girl that freaked out in the elevator” Joseph laughed.
“No wonder you got this job, Dr. Clifton must have thought you were going to sue” Joseph shook his head in amusement.
“I guess it was a big event” I sighed.
“Yo Evelyn was so freaked out and telling everybody, don’t worry about it we only laughed for like a day” He rubbed my shoulder assumingly.
Joseph slowed his pace and pointed down the hall. The walk seemed to be going on forever.
“There it is” He pointed to what seemed like the morgue.
There was a faint light coming from a fluorescent bulb that hung above the double doors of the morgue. Joseph then turned a corner and headed straight for another door a couple of feet from the morgue.
He opened the door and flicked a light switch to reveal a large unorganized storage unit. There was stuff everywhere.
The room had an old musty smell. It wasn’t overpowering but it was definitely present enough for me to taste it in the air. There was a pool table in the middle of the room that looked old. The pool sticks were underneath it and it had a bunch of unlabeled boxes on top of it. He grabbed one box that seemed to have some electronic equipment and laid it on the floor.
“What is all this stuff” Many items in the room seemed random and was not what you’d expect a rehabilitation center to carry. There were random things like umbrellas, a couple of porcelain dolls, old photos of vintage ads that were placed on the walls, and a couple of old lifestyle magazines.
“Well some of this stuff was here when they rented out the floor, probably left the old employees of the hospital. Some was left by old patients.” Joseph takes a small speaker out of the box and hands it to me.
“To be honest if I left this place I would never come back either, no matter what shit I have here” He goes to turn off the light and we leave the room. As we pass the morgue Joseph walks to the door and peers though the glass part.
“You know there was an actual fire here right” Joseph says, not backing up from the doors.
“Around last year there was smoke coming into the elevator doors when me and Larry, and another janitor were coming down here for some cleaning supplies. I was so fucking scared, I thought the elevators were going to open up to flames. Man, I think I even pissed myself. But thank god when those doors open we just noticed the flames in the distance”
Joseph face tensed up as he told me this story. I could tell he was a little traumatized. He took a big inhale before continuing.
“When the fire department came, they found a small garbage can had been set on fire. Whatever was in here was gone. Shit smelled of gasoline”
This place just keeps getting better and better. At this point I was already going through the possibility of this place being haunted. There is no way smoke can linger for over a year and not the amount that I encountered. Joseph opened the doors to the morgue. It was surprising that they weren’t locked. We stood there, I did not know if he was going to go in or not. I certainly wasn’t moving my feet. Joseph turned on the lights and moved his head from side to side, inspecting the room.
“Well are you going to turn on the light” I asked.
“Nah I just wanted to see if anyone was in here, you never no” Joseph turned off the lights as we headed back to the elevator. As the elevator was going up, I was curious as to
“Are you okay, you mentioned earlier people tend to play pranks here, what kind of pranks do they play” Before Joseph could answer the elevator doors opened and Dennis was standing in front.
“What are you too doing” He voice was harsh.
“I was just getting a speaker for her” Joseph points at the speaker I had in my hand.
“So it took of you to get one little thing, I find that funny” Dennis eyes were only fixated on Joseph. If looks could kill, Joseph would be would be blown to pieces by now.
I sensed the fear coming from Joseph. It was obvious how a six foot two hundred fifty-pound man with a permanent scowl on his face could seem intimidating. The way Dennis was behaving was strange and awkward. Perhaps there was some history between these two that I didn’t know about but the workplace certainly wasn’t the time or place for this. From the moment I met Dennis, he has portrayed himself as arrogant and unlikeable.
“I am sorry I have to go to rec room now, we are having an event in about 5 minutes” I politely smile, but not even that softens Dennis’ harsh face.
“I apologize, I did not realize I was inconveniencing you Ms. Tina” Dennis smirked.
Joseph stood quiet, staring at Dennis with his hand folded. Dennis moved to the side allowing both of us to pass. I bowed my head, thanking him as Joseph and I walked together to back to the room.
There were already a couple of teenagers in the room, accompanied by a nurse placing boxes of pizza on the tables next to bottles of soda and cups. I quickly set the speaker on a table towards the back and plug it in and then connect the my laptop. Joseph was still behind me as I was setting it up. I walk to the center of the room to address everyone.
“Okay everybody there is pizza and drinks on one table, and a bunch of different board games on the other table. Dinner and night will last from six to seven thirty. Please be respectful, clean up after yourselves, we have garbage cans so you dispose of your plates and cups and most importantly have fun. approaches don’t forget to clean up after yourselves and put the games back where they belong. If anyone needs help with anything you can ask me or any of the nurses here.”
It was a nice introduction to the event but half the teens were either already chowing down on their pizza or setting up their board games while I spoke. Joseph was eyeing everyone. It seemed he didn’t want to leave and go back in the hallway. Maybe it was to avoid Dennis, maybe not. But I couldn’t just let him stay and not talk to him so I walk back to him to at least have a little conversation.
“So what was Dennis’ problem. I felt the tension in the air.”
Joseph shrugged his shoulders.
“Dennis and I don’t exactly get along for reasons I would like to keep private.” Joseph leans back into a wall with his hands in his pocket.
“Do you guys know each other outside of this place” I didn’t want to pry too hard. I wasn’t sure what Joseph would be willing to talk about and I didn’t want to risk anyone around overhearing. There were two nurses in the room watching over all the patients. Everyone was occupied and there was nobody immediately around Joseph and I, but voices can carry.
“If you don’t want to talk now I understand” I smiled and refocused my attention on the patients playing.
Joseph walked to the open door of the room, peaked his head out and looked from side to side. He then walked back to me.
“Next Friday a couple of people from here will be going out for some drinks for Evelyn’s last day of work. You should come”
My eyes widen in shock. I had no clue Evelyn was leaving.
“Wow she did not mention that she quit to me” I said.
“She really did not want a lot of people knowing, plus she didn’t want a lot of people coming out with her to celebrate either. I see you guys are cool with each other so I don’t think she would mind. I know it’s not a pay day but the bar we’re going to is pretty good, drinks are cheap. Plus, there we could talk more” Joseph looked back at door again and then turned to me to await my answer.
Before I could answer, suddenly the sounds of swearing and yelling erupted. Joseph and I pointed our heads towards a male patient who was standing over another male patient who was sitting with his hand in front of his face in defense. The teenager was trembling in his seat and I could tell he was scared shitless of the giant leering over him. The young man standing had to be about 300 pounds, his fists where clenched and looked like boulders. One punch would definitely turn the other young man’s face into pulp. One of the nurses tried to get close to the larger teenager but he turned and screamed at her.
“Get the fuck away from me” His voice roared from his mouth. The other nurse already fled from the room. All the other patients in the room stopped what they were doing. Some got out of their seats and backed up from the tables. Joseph tried to walk toward them to intervene.
Then Dennis came running in pushing Joseph aside hard. Joseph had no time to react and fell on the ground hard. I rush to pick Joseph up while Dennis goes to approach the large patient.
“Hey man what’s the problem Stone” Dennis slowly approaches him.
“I overheard this shithead calling me a fat prick” Stone
“Because you are a fat prick” the kid sitting down retorts.
Dennis gets in between the two but only faces the patient sitting.
“Gary get on out of here before I have your Case Manager call your parents” Dennis turns back around to face Stone. As Gary slowly gets up to leave Stone reaches his large hand before Dennis could stop him and takes a swing at Gary. I look at the door and see a couple of male nurses and orderly’s run in and jump on Stone, holding him back.
“See I told you he’s a dick, all he ever does is try and scare people. Well it ain’t happening today” Gary shouts at an enraged Stone.
Oh my God, my mind is spinning at this point. The rest of the security staff escort Stone out the recreational room. He stares down Gary who speaking to a nurse. Dennis walks over to Joseph and I. He was not happy.
“What the hell just happened” Dennis asks me.
“I don’t know, the bigger guy just got up to hit the smaller one, I did not see what happened” I said.
“Well if you weren’t busy chit chatting maybe you have paid more attention” Dennis wipes the sweat from his forehead.
“Instead I had to come in to help out and I almost get hit” Dennis turns to Joseph
“Don’t your ass got some floors to mop pretty boy”
Joseph just stares at Dennis, his eyes glaring at him with anger while he rubs his shoulder.
“You got something to say” Dennis notices his anger.
“Well you pushed him pretty hard, he fell to the floor” I don’t know if I should have interjected because Dennis did not take his eyes off of Joseph. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, had he been actually doing his job he wouldn’t have been in my way while I was trying to control a situation happening in your presence” Dennis aggressively says. He walks away from us, you could tell he was still riled up. Just before exiting he turns around again.
“And I will tell Dr. Clifton about this” Dennis says before finally exiting.
I look around to see if everyone was alright. The teenagers went back to playing their games. The staff that remained in the room were whispering amongst each other while looking at me. Joseph lightly tapped me on the shoulder.
This is more excitement than I bargained for…
Saturday morning came with a headache. Andrew was still sleeping in the bed and I was dragging my body to make some coffee. The rays of the light hit my eyes when I entered the kitchen,
“Ugh, got to remember to close those blinds.”
To sum up last night at work in one word I would say explosive. As soon as I came one I cracked open a bottle and told Andrew the entire story. He reacted as expected, he was upset that it happened and it more upset when I told him Dennis’ attitude towards me. This was only my first month there but I didn’t want to already start looking for another job. Job searches can be exhausting and depressing once you see how many places are not willing to hire you.
Lost in my thoughts for the morning, I didn’t realize Andrew had gotten up. He slid his arms around my waist for a bear hug.
“Good morning Baby” Andrew says yawning.
“Good morning, you want coffee” I turn on the machine while Andrew takes out the milk from the fridge and lays it on the counter.
“Yea just one cup” He leans in for a kiss.
“You’re so loving today” I could feel my face blush. After three years of being together, it was nice to still have butterflies.
Andrew sits down at the table while I hand him his coffee. His facial expression changed from loving to disappointed.
“What’s the matter” I sit opposite from him.
“I knew you had a rough week from work and I didn’t want to tell you anything. But your Aunt Alma called”
“Oh” I take a large sip of my coffee.
“What did she say”
My aunt and I were not exactly close, I normally only hear from her once in a blue.
“Well she asked how I was doing, I told her fine then she asked if you were around I said no, then she mentioned him” Andrew started to tap compulsively on the table.
“Did she, what about” I said with no concern in my voice.
“He’s dying Tina, his cancer isn’t getting better” Andrew gives me a compassionate look.
“And what does that mean to me” I was cold in my response. Andrew shook his head, not in disapproval of my reaction but in disapproval of the whole situation.
Andrew got up and walked over to me. He hugged me from behind and kissed me. It was comforting to have him by my side, even if he did not understand.
“I am sorry if I upset you, it’s just that when your aunt calls to talk about your father I don’t know what to say to her.
“You don’t have to say anything, I knew this day would come and it’s up to me to handle it, not you”
It was not easy to have no love for a parent. But for me, it wasn’t so hard either.